Crime and suspense fiction has changed a great deal over the last twenty-five years. The old traditions are still present but the stifling constraints of the past have been shattered. Here are some elements that will ensure a mystery writer’s novel will appeal to a modern audience.
- Private eyes are in vogue again. Female detectives and sleuths are extremely popular. Consider Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone and Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone.
- Historical mysteries have risen in popularity as have supernatural tales. P.N. Elrodd’s Dark Sleep is an example of an historical mystery. A Navajo vampire is the protagonist in David Thurlo’s supernatural tales.
- Sleuths of various ethnicity and professions, some unrelated to police work, abound in bookstores. Robert O. Greer’s black bail-bondsman and reluctant sleuth, C.J. Floyd, solves crimes in The Devil’s Hatband.
- Social, sexual, religious and political issues are being explored openly in ways never done before.
- Use of some profanity and vernacular dialog is now a standard in most mystery writing, even in the traditional cozy.
- Realistic descriptions of murder scenes have replaced antiseptic, bloodless, one-bullet death scenes.
- Mysteries laced with humor have risen in popularity. Consider Janet Evanovich’s bungling, inept heroine, Stephanie Plum.
A mystery writer should sample several types of modern mysteries to get a good feel for what sells in today’s market.